By George, Darlington had some chairman - but met his match in Tino Asprilla.
George Reynolds is a one-time safeblower who has done porridge twice after having his collar felt.
I got to know George well - he was chairman of Darlo at a time when I was the chair at Gateshead and besides I was a hack, and George was ruddy good copy. He loved the limelight too. Hence our coming together.
A flamboyant character who wore a comb-over hairstyle with pins in it for safety, he regularly boasted of cracking safes and in describing his takeover of Darlington, would say with much pomp and pause for effect: "As a kid I was sold into slavery suffering beatings, hunger, misery and fear; then branded illiterate, mentally deficient and backward. All the ingredients were there to become chairman of a football club."
Actually his background was pretty much like that.
The stories used to come pouring forth - how he got his wife Susan to read out a prepared statement at a fans forum he had called in which she announced: "It's not unknown for games to be thrown."
The only trouble was all the Darlo players were sitting there.
They walked out! Later Reynolds told me with obvious glee how he bugged the home dressing-room and would listen to what players said about him. Boy, was he thick skinned!
Another of his stunts was trying to sign Newcastle's old flamboyant striker Tino Asprilla, only this time George had met his match.
Reynolds got as far as presenting Tino to the crowd before a home match with Carlisle United. Asprilla was photographed walking round the ground shaking the hands of delirious fans with Georgie boy, wearing his broadest of smiles, never far out of camera shot.
Only trouble was at five o'clock on the morning Tino was due to have his medical, he did a runner.
He was picked up by friends living in Newcastle and taken to the city's airport where he caught a flight to Gatwick for another flight on to the Middle East. While he had been talking to Darlington, Tino had also been in negotiations with an Arab club.
It was George of course who built Darlo a 25,000 all-seater stadium, not unexpectedly to be called the George Reynolds Stadium in his honour, and told me with total conviction how he would nick 8,000 fans apiece from Newcastle United, Sunderland and Middlesbrough and parachute the club into the Premier League.
The traditional way of running a football club was not for him.
It wasn't his style. Cutting corners, being confrontational, and extremely colourful. That was the cut of his jib.
After his second prison stint I went round to his new apartment with radio presenter Paul Gough for a gargle and a catch up. He re-invented himself as an after-dinner speaker with Goffy his agent and was as outrageous as ever.
Safe blower, jailbird, millionaire businessman, and genial dinner host. George Reynolds was all things to all men.
Former Newcastle United striker Tino Asprilla, who almost signed for Darlington - instead going to the Middle East
George Reynolds at the opening of Darlington's new stadium
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Apr 22, 2014|
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